Last Friday I finished the first draft of my novel. It was a momentous occasion on several fronts. First of all, it is not very often that I actually finish something as evidenced by my half-completed cross-stitch projects and other adventures that I dive into but then quickly set aside. Secondly, and probably most important: I WROTE A BOOK. How many people out there say, "I think I'll write a book someday" or "I have this great idea for a book"? Hint: LOTS. I was one of them. Writing has always been a passion and while I never imagined I would have the attention span to complete an actual novel (see above) it was always in the back of my mind as something I wanted to accomplish. Several years ago when I was teaching seventh graders, the students had to create a timeline of their lives that extended into the future. My co-teacher and I each made our own timeline as well to serve as a model. "Wrote a Book" was on there (although I should have sold it and be touring morning talk shows by now) and it feels good to think that I have actually accomplished a life goal. No, it doesn't feel good. It feels AWESOME.
Which brings me to the topic of this post. Several writing books instruct that upon completion of draft one, the author should set the story aside and let it stew for a while before beginning revisions. It makes sense in theory - that way when you approach draft two your mind is fresh and clear. That was totally my plan. But after two days I started re-reading. It wasn't as if I hadn't already done some major revisions thus far - the introductory chapters have been re-written several times - but it was the first time I would be reading the whole thing from start to finish. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to hear how everything flowed and do a quick proofread before sending it off to critique partners. When I finished reading, the cat nearly jumped out of her fur at my loud proclamation. "THE WORLD NEEDS THIS BOOK!"
After that first read-through, I am ready to follow directions and let my book rest for a week or two, maybe three and work on something else. Partly because I want to wait and see what my first round of readers think, but mostly because I want to revel in the glow of my current emotional state. I'm beginning to see why writing gurus recommend waiting. The feeling is hard to describe, but it is pretty darn incredible. As of this moment, I am the only person who has read my book, and I happen to think it is good. Really good. The fact that it all came out of my brain makes it even better. Maybe it is actually crap and I am being totally delusional. It may be my friends and family that burst my bubble, it may be the long string of rejection that are sure to pepper my future. My book could be downright terrible. (Hopefully it's not.) But I had an idea two years ago, then life got tired of me saying, "I'm writing a book" without actually writing it and yanked away my proverbial rug, forcing me to write it for real. I did. And I am going to enjoy this feeling of accomplishment for as long as I can.
Perhaps the same concept can apply to other things. How often do we beat ourselves up for bad things that have happened, mistakes made or friendships destroyed? When something good happens, when we do something right, something incredible, we should set it aside and dance around it. Blast the music. Toss confetti into the air. Celebrate it fully.
Please excuse me while I crank the stereo.